Aristotle’s view on becoming good by doing good things gives a very strong sense of nobility. However it is not as easy as it looks or sounds like. Unfortunately when a person tries to do moral or virtuous things, he instead finds himself sometimes wallowing in the mud of confusion. Some of the factors that contribute to this are the differences of cultures in the society and other beliefs which make it hard for an individual to identify how to apply his goal of doing good things and become a good person.
The following write-ups will tackle the different angles of this view beginning from its source to its strengths and limitations. Practicing Moral Virtue One of the famous teachings of the Greek philosopher Aristotle (student to Plato and teacher to Alexander the Great) was derived from the books of his Nicomachean Ethics (the name being such as scholars believed that the notes were either edited by or dedicated to Aristotle’s son, Nicomachus, who was then the next leader to Aristotle’s school which is the Lyceum) or Ta Ethika, which says that people who consistently do good are good people (Nicomachean Ethics).
Being the focus of the said work, this particular teaching stresses on the importance of practicing moral virtue and how a person is defined by it, the nature of one’s person, and one how one is motivated to do good. Book one for instance is all about the study of the good. This has been divided into five subtopics namely:
(1) Goal-directed ethics,
(2) Character-Centered ethics,
(3) “The Function Argument” which talks about the function and essence of being human,
(4) Eudaimonia, and
(5) Criticism of Plato’s theory of forms.
These topics are very good bases for reflection since they help us distinguish whether a person is doing real goodness or just doing good for a self-serving purpose (emphasis will only be given on the first two ethics as they are closer to the main topic). Goal-Directed Ethics Under this category, Aristotle explains how people do things for a certain purpose, or for their own good. Let us take for example the elections and how some politicians try to achieve their purpose of getting a seat in the government.
Many countries around the world have been dealing with corruption even during the ancient times. Every citizen of a certain country would dream of having a good leader, one who is sure to use his/her position in aiding the people especially the victims of poverty, and not to use the country’s resources in accumulating wealth for himself or using them as repayment for the expenses or losses incurred during the campaign. But nowadays many political figures have been skilled with the art of self-fabrication specifically through the help of the media.
With just a little make-over and meticulous script writing before facing the cameras, a corrupt politician is immediately turned into a harmless creature. This is just a simple example of how people are being deceived when assessing which person deserves to be trusted or not. This is where the Nicomachean Ethics come in handy. By being able to distinguish what really motivates a person to do something or identifying his/her true purpose, then it just might be possible that to be able to elect a true leader for a nation.
Character-Centered Ethics. The character-centered ethics is what our point of discussion is all about. Also called the virtue ethics, this is based more on integrity and Aristotle himself assumed that courage is recognized out of it. This category clearly states the fact about acts of real goodness without the expectation for something in return except for that person to make a better character out of himself. This is where virtues like sacrifice, humility, and compassion comes in, unlike with goal-centered ethics which has a clear tendency towards manipulation.
Going back to the above example, while goal-directed ethics have more leaning towards corrupt politicians, character-centered ethics on the other hand is all about government officials with principles. Politics is a world filled with unimaginable challenges and temptation. In fact going against a corrupt system often costs a man of principle for this will cause his detractors to destroy him and take away all the fruits of his effort. It really would take extraordinary courage to maintain this principle even up to the point that one must give up any ambition of going up the political ladder.
However, this rare chance is an opportunity to really prove one’s character and it would certainly produce admiration and support from the citizens of a country who serve as witnesses to this.
(1) Strength of Virtue Ethics: Virtue ethics is grounded on moral obligation which gives more importance on character than action. In other words, on what kind of persons we ought to be rather than what we ought to do (Moral Philosophy . Info: Strengths of Virtue Ethics). These are the qualities of virtue ethics responsible for its return to prominence after suffering periods of neglect.
People became tired of rule-based ethics which does not give the same satisfaction or happiness from doing the right thing like helping the poor out of compassion and not because it is one’s duty to do so (Moral Philosophy . Info: Strengths of Virtue Ethics). Weaknesses of Virtue Ethics:
(2) Weaknesses of Virtue Ethics One of the limitations of virtue ethics is its relativity. With the diverse cultures in existence, it is difficult to identify or conclude which virtue is applicable to all. One example is the belief of pork consumption between Catholics and Muslims.
The latter believes that eating pork is forbidden as provided so in the verses of the Holy Qu’ran which is enough to satisfy a Muslim to follow this view. On the other hand, it is not very strict among Catholics whether they consume swine flesh or not except temporarily during Ash Wednesdays or during Fridays within the Lent Season. These opposing views are of such big deal between two religions especially among the Muslims who would take great offense with issues of pork consumption. From this viewpoint, it truly is difficult to determine which should prevail or be considered as a real virtue.
Another limitation is application of virtue when it comes to certain issues like abortion. Many are still debating on how to take a stand on abortion which is primarily depriving an innocent child to live and is often considered as murder. But what of the consequences of pursuing this new life if the parents are unprepared or if the mother happens to be a rape victim therefore making her incapable of raising her child, who might just turn out to be among the isolated people in the society or worse a criminal. Lastly, there is an objection to a virtue when it becomes a vice.
The courage of virtue is often identified from a brave soldier who goes to war in order to topple down oppression. This however, does not make the activities moral after leaving all the consequences like the death of innocent civilians and other forms of murder as a consequence of that war (Moral Philosophy . Info: Objections to Virtue Ethics). Therefore there already appears to be a confusion between morality and virtue. Conclusion Perhaps real goodness can only exist if an action will not affect the interests or beliefs of others.
The word good in itself is good until it loses its essence in a different environment. If we go back to basic science, even the simplest of organisms need to adjust to its environment to the point that it needs to evolve itself in order to survive. Human beings though are more complex individuals with better capacity to think and distinguish right from wrong. But our nature for survival makes it difficult for us to sometimes keep up with our principles. Another dilemma is that some things may be good to others while to some it is not.
Death penalty is one. While to others it is murder and a violation to human rights, for the criminal’s victims it is real justice. Therefore this leaves us with the question, is Aristotle’s view really sensible? The answer would be of course. But with this let us take into consideration the virtue of respect. It is the one virtue that aided the existence of peace despite every person’s differences while at the same time developing a person’s character. Respect is one of the good virtues that make a person good without stepping on other’s toes.
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Discuss Aristotle’s View That We Become Good By Doing Good Things. (2020, Jun 01). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/discuss-aristotles-view-become-good-good-things-new-essay